ATLANTA – Terry McMillen fought off a stomach virus most of the weekend during the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. McMillen was able to put his Amalie Oil / Wolverine Boots and Apparel Top Fuel Dragster into the 13th spot, but not without a lot of effort.
“I don’t think it’s suppose to be this hard,” McMillen said. “We certainly did it the hard way.”
Shortly after arriving in Atlanta, McMillen experienced either a stomach virus or food poisoning that kept him under the weather for most of the weekend. Saturday brought more bad news for McMillen’s team. Crew Chief Doug Kuch learned that his father passed away suddenly. “We were all sad to hear about the Kuch family loss,” McMillen said. “Our prayers were with Doug and his family. Doug decided to finish the race with us and then head home for his family.”
While the team struggled early on and off the track, they were encouraged by the improvements. “If you look at our qualifying runs on paper it didn’t look great,” McMillen said. “We made a lot of headway with all of our new parts and we began to see improvements in our early numbers that indicated we would be able to run with anyone, if we could just get the car all the way down the track.”
McMillen made his second NHRA start of the season, keeping his owner/driver career record a perfect 4 for 4 in qualifying. The 13th spot in Atlanta would position McMillen for a showdown with 6-time NHRA World Champion Tony Schumacher. Schumacher also brought a round one winning streak of 31 into the match up.
McMillen would take a huge hole shot advantage (.078) at the start of the race. It looked as though McMillen would earn his first round win in NHRA competition. Schumacher would make up about .003 seconds in the first 60 foot of the race – but the next 340 feet Schumacher would not be able to make up any significant ground on the Amalie Oil team. But, that’s when things started to change.
McMillen’s ride would experience a sudden failure in the rear end of the car, causing the engine to over rev and knock the burst panels out of the injector. The blown burst panels would trigger the new safety equipment to work as designed, shutting off the fuel system and deploying the parachutes. This would allow Schumacher, whose car was experiencing its own difficulties, the opportunity to drive around McMillen for his 32nd consecutive round one victory.
Schumacher would later tell McMillen that there was no way he could have caught him.
“I guess that’s why they call it racing,” McMillen said. “I think with all the adversity that we faced this weekend and all of the bad luck we had on the track and as individuals on this team – it brought us together. I think we were a tight knit bunch before – but we’re tighter now. We’re on the verge of being a very consistent team.”
“The next time people see us on the race track, we’ll be faster and tougher than we were today. I know we’ll get our wins. My guys are tough.”
The next NHRA race for the Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team will be the NHRA Super Nationals in Englishtown New Jersey, June 11-14.